Nine Children Among 10 Killed In Storm-Hit Alabama Crash

Drone image shows aftermath of a deadly crash of 18 vehicles on interstate 65 in Butler County, Alabama, on Sunday June 20, 2021, leaving 10 dead - 9 children and one adult.
Drone image shows aftermath of a deadly crash of 18 vehicles on interstate 65 in Butler County, Alabama, on Sunday June 20, 2021, leaving 10 dead – 9 children and one adult.

 

 

Nine children and an adult were killed in a fiery multi-vehicle crash on an Alabama highway as heavy storms lashed the southeastern US, authorities said Sunday.

Saturday’s crash on an interstate highway near the city of Greenville involved at least 15 vehicles and was “probably” caused by hydroplaning under torrential rains, Butler County coroner Wayne Garlock told AFP.

Storm Claudette dumped up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in the Gulf Coast region Saturday. It was blamed for at least two other deaths.

The dead in the crash included a father and his nine-month-old daughter in an SUV, and eight occupants of a van — aged four to 17 — from a “girls ranch” for neglected and abused children, local media reported.

“This was probably the most horrific accident in Butler County history,” Sheriff Danny Bond told the al.com website.

He said at least two of the vehicles involved were 18-wheel trucks, and that four or five other people had suffered nonfatal injuries.

The driver of the van was pulled out alive by a bystander, witnesses said. The bystander then tried to help the children but was prevented by a fierce fire engulfing the vehicle, Garlock said.

The van driver was identified as Candice Gully, director of the girls farm in Tallapoosa County, an official with the state ranch system told al.com.

‘Suffered a great loss’

The SUV driver was identified as Cody Fox, 29, an emergency management worker from Tennessee. His fiancee was injured in the wreck.

Garlock said the crash scene was in an area notorious for hydroplaning as Interstate 65 curves down a steep hill.

Northbound and southbound traffic on the busy highway was halted for hours by the accident, but both had reopened by Sunday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said on Twitter.

The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch said it was providing grief counselors for children there.

“Our hearts are heavy today. Our ranch has suffered great loss… Please send prayers our way,” the ranch’s account said on Twitter.

The van in the accident was one of two bringing children back from a weeklong beach outing to nearby Gulf Shores, al.com reported. The other van was unscathed.

Storm Claudette, later downgraded to a tropical depression, has dumped heavy rain across the southeastern US.

The Tuscaloosa News said two people died — a 24-year-old man and his three-year-old son — when a tree fell on their house.

Claudette is forecast to return to tropical storm status on Monday over eastern North Carolina, before weakening again by Tuesday.

The system has washed out roads, trapped motorists in their cars, and flooded residential areas in the region, and the National Hurricane Center warned that further flooding was likely.

Passenger Tries To Break Into Cockpit On US Flight

 

 

A passenger on a US airplane tried to smash his way into the cockpit until another traveler and members of the aircrew tackled him and pinned him down, witnesses said.

The Delta Air flight from Los Angeles to Nashville made an emergency landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the man was dragged off the plane with his hands and feet secured by zip ties.

He had repeatedly screamed “Stop this plane” as he was wrestled to the floor at the front of the cabin, according to a phone camera footage of the incident on Friday.

An unnamed passenger told CNN that the man “seemingly unprovoked, just got up and rushed the pilot’s cabin and began banging on the doors.”

Another passenger, Jessica Robertson, described the scene as “terrifying” but praised flight attendants for acting quickly.

The FBI in Albuquerque confirmed on Twitter that it had responded to the incident.

Delta, in a statement to US media, expressed “thanks to the crew and passengers of Delta Flight 386, LAX to Nashville, who assisted in detaining an unruly passenger.

“The aircraft landed without incident and the passenger was removed by law enforcement.”

The remaining passengers spent five hours in Albuquerque before a new flight took them to Nashville.

AFP

Durant Scores 29 As Nets Roll Over Bucks In NBA Series Opener

Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks during Round 2, Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 5, 2021 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks during Round 2, Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 5, 2021, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NATHANIEL S. BUTLER / NBAE / GETTY IMAGES / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

 

Kevin Durant had 29 points and 10 rebounds as the Brooklyn Nets withstood Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 34-point performance to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 115-107 in the opening game of their second-round series.

The Nets won the battle between two of the NBA’s most potent offences on Saturday night despite losing James Harden to a nagging hamstring injury in the first minute of the game.

Harden was forced out just 43 seconds in, pulling up and grabbing the back of his leg after a drive. He did not return.

Kyrie Irving had 25 points and eight assists, Blake Griffin tallied 18 points and a team-high 14 rebounds for the Nets, who beat the Bucks in six games in 2003, the last time they met in the playoffs.

Journeyman Mike James came off the bench to score 12 points in the win.

“You never want to lose a guy like James but we have been in this situation before,” said Griffin. “I trust these guys.

“Everyone had to step up. We played like that most of the season. We got guys that step up and Kevin and Kyrie do what they do.”

Game two is on Monday in Brooklyn.

“Our defence was good, we didn’t give them too many wide-open looks. We cleaned up some things as the game went on,” said head coach Steve Nash.

Antetokounmpo, the two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, played 35 minutes, shooting 16 of 24 from the floor and grabbing 11 rebounds for the underdog Bucks, who led the league by averaging 120.1 points per game in the regular season.

“It was a little bit of everything. Shots didn’t go in. We did not compete as hard as we wanted to defensively,” said Antetokounmpo.

Both clubs came into the second round of the postseason after cruising through their opening series.

Milwaukee completed a four-game sweep of Miami last Saturday to reach the second round for the third straight season.

Brooklyn, who averaged 118.6 points during the regular season, needed five games to get past the Boston Celtics thanks in large part to the trio of Durant, Irving, and Harden.

Due to injuries and rest, the trio had played just eight games together during the regular season.

Brooklyn had hoped to have the big three healthy for the playoffs but have hit another injury snag with Harden going down in front of a crowd of 15,700 at Barclays Center arena.

The Nets announced later in the first half that Harden would undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.

“It has happened to us all year that someone goes down,” said Nash. “We made a few plays. We hustled. It was great to see guys who hadn’t been in the rotation step up.

The 31-year-old Harden has had hamstring problems before, missing 21 games in April and May. The Nets are 20-17 without Harden and 29-7 with him in the lineup.

Harden averaged 27.8 points and 10.6 assists in the first round against the Celtics.

Antetokounmpo scored 10 points in the first quarter as the Bucks led 32-30 at the end of 12 minutes. Antetokounmpo said it didn’t change things when Harden got hurt.

“We still had our game plan. We still had a game plan for Kyrie and KD and Joe (Harris),” he said.

In the second quarter the teams exchanged runs as Brooklyn went on a 20-8 blitz to take a 59-48 lead but the Bucks clawed their way back with a 13-4 run of their own to get within two, 63-61, at the half.

The Nets went on another 12-4 run to end the third to take a commanding 98-84 lead into the fourth quarter.

AFP

Biden Says To Push Putin At Summit To Protect Human Rights

In this file combination of pictures created on March 17, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden(L) during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin as he and his Turkish counterpart hold a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2020.
In this file combination of pictures created on March 17, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden(L) during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin as he and his Turkish counterpart hold a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2020.

 

President Joe Biden pledged Sunday to tell Russian leader Vladimir Putin at their June summit that Washington will not let Moscow “abuse” human rights.

The face-to-face meeting with the Kremlin leader comes amid levels of tension not seen for years, with Washington now dialing back its ambitions to little more than establishing a relationship in which both sides understand each other and can work together in specific areas.

“I’ll be meeting with President Putin in a couple of weeks in Geneva, making it clear that we will not — we will not stand by and let him abuse those rights,” Biden said in a speech on the summit, which is set for June 16.

READ ALSO: UK To Build New ‘National Flagship’ To Promote Post-Brexit Trade

Since taking office, Biden has imposed new sanctions against Moscow over what US authorities say was the Russian role in the massive SolarWinds cyber attack and repeated meddling in the 2020 presidential election.

In addition, Washington has harshly criticized Moscow for the near-death poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of one of the last open opponents to Putin, Alexei Navalny.

Tensions are also high over Ukraine, where Russia already controls swaths of territory and recently massed troops on the border in a new show of force.

Yet another focus is on Russian-dominated Belarus, which caused an uproar this week after authorities forced an airliner passing overhead to land, then arrested an opponent to President Alexander Lukashenko who had been aboard.

Two Dead, 10 Missing As Cuban Migrant Vessel Sinks Off Florida

In this handout image courtesy of the US Coast Guard the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute small boat crew rescues 8 people from the water approximately 18 miles southwest of Key West, Florida, May 27,2021.
In this handout image courtesy of the US Coast Guard the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute small boat crew rescues 8 people from the water approximately 18 miles southwest of Key West, Florida, May 27,2021.

 

 

The US Coast Guard was searching Friday for 10 people missing off Florida after a migrant vessel with 20 Cubans capsized.

Authorities reported late Thursday they had recovered two bodies near the Florida Keys and pulled eight people alive from the ocean.

The Coast Guard said on Twitter that “multiple air & surface assets” searched through the night would continue all day.

A Coast Guard crew was on a routine patrol Thursday when it spotted people in the water.

The survivors said they left Cuba’s Puerto de Mariel on Sunday and capsized at some point on Wednesday night.

The Coast Guard did not describe the vessel that the group came on, though it is common for Cubans trying to reach the United States by sea to take crude boats not suitable for navigating the Straits of Florida.

Cuba’s deepening economic crisis has sparked an increase in the number of people seeking to escape the island.

In the last eight months, the Coast Guard has intercepted 298 Cubans, compared with 49 individuals from October 2019 to September 2020.

US Formally Begins Withdrawing Troops From Afghanistan War

File photo taken of US Marines board a C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft. PHOTO: Wakil KOHSAR / AFP

 

The United States formally begins withdrawing its last troops from Afghanistan on Saturday, bringing its longest war nearer to an end but also heralding an uncertain future for a country in the tightening grip of an emboldened Taliban.

US officials on the ground say the withdrawal is already a work in progress — and May 1 is just a continuation — but Washington has made an issue of the date because it is a deadline agreed with the Taliban in 2020 to complete the pullout.

The skies above Kabul and nearby Bagram airbase have been buzzing with more US helicopter activity than usual as the pullout gears up, following the start Thursday of a concurrent NATO withdrawal.

READ ALSO: Kenya Eases Some Restrictions But Protests Still Banned

Afghan security forces were on high alert for any possible Taliban attacks on retreating American troops.

The US military said it had carried out a “precision strike” after an airfield in the southern province of Kandahar where it has a base was attacked.

The strike, which the military said destroyed more rockets aimed at the airfield, came after the base “received ineffective indirect fire” on Saturday afternoon that caused no damages.

“The Americans will formally begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan starting May 1 and the Taliban might increase the violence,” Acting Interior Minister Hayatullah Hayat told top police commanders, according to an audio clip given to reporters.

Afghan Acting Defence Minister Zia Yasin said US and allied troops will be leaving their bases and will gather at Bagram, the biggest American base in Afghanistan.

From there “they will go to their respective countries”, Yasin told reporters.

The prospect of an end to the US presence after 20 years comes despite fighting raging across the countryside in the absence of a peace deal.

A stark reminder of what remains came late Friday with a car bomb in Pul-e-Alam, south of the capital, killing at least 24 people and wounding 110 more.

 

– Taliban awaiting orders –

US President Joe Biden is determined to end what he called “the forever war”, announcing last month that the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 American forces would be complete by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

“A horrific attack 20 years ago… cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” he said.

The Taliban said the US troop withdrawal was to be completed by May 1 as agreed in last year’s accord with Washington, and warned it was a “clear violation” that the troops were not fully out.

“This in principle opens the way for our mujahideen to take appropriate action against the invading forces,” Mohammad Naeem, a Taliban spokesman told AFP, adding that the group was awaiting orders from its leaders.

Since the US withdrawal deal was struck the Taliban have not directly engaged foreign troops, but have mercilessly attacked government forces in the countryside and waged a terror campaign in urban areas.

The exit of US forces has only exacerbated the fear felt by ordinary Afghans.

“Everyone is scared that we might go back to the dark days of the Taliban era,” said Mena Nowrozi, who works at a private radio station in Kabul.

“The Taliban are still the same; they have not changed. The US should have extended their presence by at least a year or two,” she told AFP.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insists that government forces — which for months have carried out most of the ground fighting against the Taliban — are “fully capable” of keeping the insurgents at bay.

He said the pullout also means the Taliban have no reason to fight.

“Who are you killing? What are you destroying? Your pretext of fighting the foreigners is now over,” Ghani said in a speech this week.

 

– Worst-case analysis –

Still, General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has not ruled out total chaos.

“On the worst-case analysis, you have a potential collapse of the government, a potential collapse of the military,” he said earlier this week.

“You have a civil war and all the humanitarian catastrophe that goes with it.”

Police officer Abdul Malik from the former insurgent bastion of Kandahar said they were prepared.

“We have to take care of our homeland… We will do our best to defend our soil,” he told AFP.

The US-led military onslaught in Afghanistan began in October 2001 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Two decades later, and after the death of almost 2,400 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans, Biden says the final withdrawal was justified as US forces had now made sure the country cannot again become a base for foreign jihadists to plot against the West.

Concerns are high that the Taliban might yet strike at retreating US forces, and in the southern province of Kandahar — where the foes used to clash regularly — security sources say several areas are laden with explosives planted by the insurgents.

“If the Taliban attack retreating US or allied forces, it would be to bloody the nose of a defeated enemy and to humiliate it further,” said Afghanistan specialist Nishank Motwani.

AFP

Prince Harry Joins $1.7bn US Counseling Startup

 

Britain’s Prince Harry on Tuesday added to a growing portfolio of post-royal jobs, becoming “chief impact officer” at a San Francisco startup that provides mobile-based coaching, counseling, and mentorship.

Amid a highly public spat with Buckingham Palace, Harry and his American wife Meghan Markle, a mixed-race former television actress, now live in California after stepping away from royal duties.

An explosive interview they gave to Oprah Winfrey this month — in which they claimed an unnamed royal had asked how dark their baby’s skin would be — plunged the monarchy into its biggest crisis since the death of Harry’s mother, princess Diana, in 1997.

In his new role with BetterUp, the Duke of Sussex will champion the importance of maximizing human potential worldwide, according to chief executive Alexi Robichaux.

“I firmly believe that focusing on and prioritizing our mental fitness unlocks potential and opportunity that we never knew we had inside of us,” Prince Harry said in a BetterUp blog post.

“As the Royal Marine Commandos say, ‘It’s a state of mind.’ We all have it in us.”

READ ALSO: President Biden Calls For Assault Weapon Ban After Colorado Shooting

BetterUp’s platform combines behavioral science, artificial intelligence, and human coaching to optimize personal growth and professional development, according to the company, which last month announced it had raised $125 million in funding at a valuation of $1.73 billion.

In his new job, the prince — who said he had used the BetterUp platform himself — will not manage employees or have direct reports, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Founded in 2013, BetterUp has grown to more than 270 employees and a network of some 2,000 coaches.

A list of its clients included NASA, Chevron, Mars, Genentech, Snap, and Warner Media.

Since leaving their roles as working royals, Harry and Meghan have already signed lucrative digital media deals to capitalize on their celebrity — one to produce content for Netflix, and another to present podcasts for Spotify.

They have spoken of their desire “to do something of meaning, to do something that matters,” in California, where they have launched a wide-ranging non-profit organization named Archewell.

The couple have worked with a charity to hand out meals to chronically ill people in Los Angeles, and Markle — whose mother is Black — spoke out last year after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American killed in police custody.

Demand for coaching focused on employee well-being and development has grown “significantly” in the past year, according to BetterUp.

“Self-optimization is not about fixing something that’s broken,” Prince Harry said.

“It’s about becoming the best version of ourselves, with whatever life throws at us — someone who is ready for the next challenge and can meet setbacks with courage, confidence, and self-awareness.”

LeBron James Injury Rocks Lakers In Loss To Hawks, Depleted 76ers Cruise Past Kings

 

LeBron James crashed out of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 99-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks Saturday with a right ankle injury that will sideline the NBA superstar indefinitely.

The Lakers superstar collapsed to the Staples Center court in agony after a collision with Atlanta’s Solomon Hill in the second quarter, crying out in pain and clutching his right ankle.

The 36-year-old returned briefly to hit a three-pointer before limping back to the locker room, knocking over a chair in frustration.

ESPN later reported that an MRI scan revealed a high ankle sprain and that James faced an “indefinite” injury layoff.

Depending on the severity, high ankle sprains can take anywhere from a few weeks up to several months to recover from.

James did not speak to reporters, but tweeted later that he would return as soon as possible.

“Nothing angers and saddens me more than not being available to and for my teammates!” James wrote. “I’m hurt inside and out right now. The road back from recovery begins now. Back soon like I never left.”

A lengthy layoff for James would be a devastating blow to the reigning champion Lakers, who are already without star Anthony Davis as he recovers from Achilles tendon trouble.

“It’s certainly going to be a challenge any time you’re undermanned,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “But if you play team-first basketball and you defend at our level you’ll have a chance to win and that’ll be our mindset.”

Lakers team-mates Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell admitted that the sight of James leaving the arena was unnerving.

“We do forget he’s human sometimes, to see him in pain like that,” said Harrell, who was unhappy with Hill’s dive for the ball that led to James’s injury.

“We don’t feel like it was one of those basketball-type plays,” Harrell said. “He had to go through his leg to get the ball.”

With James missing, the Lakers offense struggled to get in the groove as the Hawks — fueled by 27 points and 16 rebounds from John Collins — notched their eighth straight victory, the longest active streak in the league.

The Lakers fell to 28-14 to remain in second place in the Western Conference behind the Utah Jazz.

The Hawks improved to 22-20, tied for fourth with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference led by the Philadelphia 76ers — who beat the Sacramento Kings 129-105 despite the absences of three injured starters.

Shortly before tipoff, the Sixers announced that Ben Simmons would be sidelined with a sore left knee.

Joel Embiid missed his fourth straight game with a bone bruise in his left knee and Seth Curry was out with a sprained left ankle.

Tobias Harris led the Sixers with 29 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Shake Milton added 28 points and Danny Green chipped in 18.

Despite the lack of star-power, the 76ers set an early tone, scoring 42 points in the first quarter. They led wire-to-wire, pushing their advantage to as many as 36 points.

The Milwaukee Bucks kept the accelerator down, notching their sixth straight victory 120-113 over the San Antonio Spurs.

Two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo had 26 points and a season-high 15 assists to go with eight rebounds for Milwaukee.

Khris Middleton scored 23 points and Jrue Holiday added 21.

– Grizzlies bounce back –
In Memphis, the Grizzlies got the better of short-handed Golden State, turning the tables on the Warriors a night after losing to them with a 111-103 victory.

Jonas Valanciunas scored 19 points and pulled down 15 rebounds.

Dillon Brooks scored 19, Brandon Clarke scored 16, Ja Morant chipped in 14 with eight assists and the Grizzlies clamped down defensively in a tight fourth quarter to get the win.

The Warriors were without Stephen Curry for a second straight game as he recovers from a bruised tailbone. Kevon Looney, James Wiseman, and Eric Paschall were all sidelined by coronavirus contact tracing.

Billie Eilish Wins Grammys’ Record Of The Year

 

Billie Eilish on Sunday snagged the Grammy for Record of the Year for the second straight time, a major feat for the 19-year-old who swept all four top categories at last year’s ceremony.

This time, the edgy pop sensation bested a crowded field including the night’s big stars Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce, along with Dua Lipa, Post Malone, and Doja Cat, to win the prize honoring the year’s best overall song for her hit “Everything I Wanted.”

In 2020, the teenage phenom cemented her place as an establishment leader, posting a banner Grammy night by sweeping prizes for Album, Record, and Song of the Year, plus Best New Artist — the first woman and youngest artist to do so.

READ ALSO: #GRAMMYs: Nigerians Salute Burna Boy, ‘True African Giant, Twice As Tall’

“Everything I Wanted” is a gauzy ode to the struggles of stardom that touches on the teenage angst over feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, and concerns about fitting in.

Last year, she won Record of the Year honors for her hit “Bad Guy” off her debut “when we all fall asleep, where do we go?”, which won for Album of the Year.

Before her album’s release in March 2019, Eilish had already won a fervent online following for her bold, often haunting pop sound featuring heavy bass and tinges of trap and electronic dance music.

She is now one of the biggest pop stars in the world, and though the pandemic forced her to cancel her global tour, she still posted a strong year that included penning the theme ballad for the upcoming James Bond film “No Time to Die” — which also scored a Grammy on Sunday.

AFP

Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ Wins Grammy For Album Of The Year

 

Pop powerhouse Taylor Swift won the Grammy for Album of the Year for “folklore,” her first of two quarantine records — the third time she has won the coveted trophy, putting her in rarefied company.

Swift bested contenders including Post Malone, Coldplay, Dua Lipa, sister act Haim, and the Black Pumas to win the award.

Only three other artists have won Album of the Year three times — Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and Frank Sinatra.

READ ALSO: Burna Boy Wins Grammy Award For Twice As Tall

It’s been a banner year for Swift, the one-time Grammy darling who surprised her legions of fans not once but twice during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, releasing “folklore” over the summer and “evermore” as an early holiday gift.

“folklore” — which earned the star six Grammy nominations — saw the famously introspective Swift delve into songwriting from the perspective of others, storytelling in the vein of American musical folk storytellers including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and the late John Prine.

Sunday’s big win marked a return to the Grammy spotlight for Swift, who appeared to have fallen out of grace with the Recording Academy in recent years.

Beyonce Breaks Grammy Record, Becomes Female Artist With Most Wins

 

Beyonce made Grammys history Sunday by becoming the winningest woman in the history of the music industry’s top awards gala, and its most decorated singer with 28 career wins.

She secured the record after winning Best R&B Song for her hit “Black Parade,” a single celebrating Black culture and activism that dropped in the wake of mass protests ignited by the death of George Floyd in police custody in the summer of 2020.

“I am so honored. I’m so excited. Thank you,” said the singer, who made a surprise showing at the gala she has skipped for the past several years.

“As an artist I believe it’s my job and all of our jobs to reflect our times. So I wanted to uplift, encourage, celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the whole world,” she continued, wearing a curve-hugging black leather mini dress.

“It’s such a magical night, thank you so much,” Beyonce said, adding her gratitude to her children — after the eldest, Blue Ivy, won her first Grammy for her appearance in the music video “Brown Skin Girl.”

“I’m so honored to be your mommy, all of your mommies. Y’all are my babies. And I’m so proud of y’all. I love you so much, my rock,” she said, nodding to her husband, rapper Jay-Z.

READ ALSO: Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ Wins Grammy For Album Of The Year

It is a major moment for the 39-year-old Beyonce, whose repeated snubs in top award fields have raised eyebrows and stirred controversy.

She is the Grammy’s most nominated female artist ever with 79, tied with Paul McCartney as the second most nominated act and only one behind husband Jay-Z and industry legend Quincy Jones.

Prior to 2021, the megastar boasted 24 Grammy wins to her name — but notoriously lost Album of the Year in 2017 to British balladeer Adele, a controversial snub often cited as an example of the Recording Academy’s diversity issues.

Critics praised “Black Parade” for Beyonce’s strong vocals as well as its lyrics that simultaneously condemn racism, issue a call for activism and pay homage to Black culture.

Proceeds from the song benefit Beyonce’s Black Business Impact Fund, which supports Black-owned small businesses.

AFP

H.E.R. Wins Song Of The Year Grammy

In this screengrab, H.E.R. attends MusiCares: Music On A Mission Online Celebration and Fundraiser during the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Arturo Holmes/Getty Images The Recording Academy/AFP Arturo Holmes / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

 

The soulful 23-year-old R&B performer H.E.R. pulled an upset in scooping the Grammy for Song of the Year on Sunday for her justice-minded song “I Can’t Breathe,” which tackles Black pain and police brutality.

The guitar virtuoso’s single — which debuted in June 2020 in the wake of mass anti-racism protests following the death in police custody of a Black man, George Floyd — bested competition from Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Billie Eilish to win top songwriting honors.

“I Can’t Breathe” is a phrase echoing the final words of Eric Garner, who died after New York police placed him in a chokehold while arresting him on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes.

Floyd, who died as a Minnesota policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, said the same words as he begged for mercy.

It has become an ubiquitous chant at Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality, and in her bluesy song filled with wrenching lyricism, H.E.R. asks why the three words are so often met with indifference.

“I didn’t imagine that my fear and that my pain would turn into impact,” the musician said in accepting her trophy.

“I want to thank God for giving me the gift of a voice and a pen and using me as a vessel to create change,” she continued.

“Remember, we are the change that we wish to see, and that fight that we had in us, the summer of 2020 — keep that same energy.”

Prior to the 2021 gala, H.E.R. already had two Grammys under her belt.

Born Gabriella Wilson, the performer maintains an air of anonymity, often shielding herself behind bold, dark sunglasses and letting her velvety vocals speak for themselves.

The Californian — whose stage name is an acronym for “Having Everything Revealed” — was well-respected within the industry long before she broke into the mainstream. She recently performed “America The Beautiful” during the Super Bowl pregame show.

AFP